Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s office was on Wednesday fighting a potential PR disaster after details emerged Russian pranksters had placed a call on her in September impersonating African Union (AU) Commission boss Moussa Faki Mahamat.
The Italian premier’s office said she had been misled into the call, but the contents of the call shared on X revealed European fears on the Russia-Ukraine war.
🇬🇧 ENGLISH SUBTITLES 🇬🇧— Crazy Ass Moments in Italian Politics 🇮🇹 (@CrazyItalianPol) November 1, 2023
The Russian comedy duo Vovan and Lexus made a prank call to Italian PM Giorgia Meloni pretending to be the head of the African Union.
In the call (confirmed as authentic by the Italian government) Meloni said that all her European colleagues are already… pic.twitter.com/ybad9AkoZv
In a clip posted by Russian comedy pranksters Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexei Stolyarov aka Vova and Lexus; she tells the unreal African diplomat that both sides of the war are “fatigued” and that something has to be done to stop the conflict.
She said that after more than 18 months of fighting, “everybody understands that we need a way out…. “the problem is to find a way out which can be acceptable for both without destroying the international law.”
The Italian leader said she had had some proposals but hadn’t yet put them forward because the right moment was not yet in.
A statement from an aide said the Italian prime minister had been “deceived” about the call placed on September 18, believing she was actually speaking to the African Union (AU) chief.
But the pranksters who have in the past deceived politicians in other European countries about the war may have managed to expose the divisions within the European Union about the war. In public, the EU, to which Italy belongs, has fronted a united front on the war, seeking to impose sanctions on Russia for invading Ukraine last year in February, as well as supporting Ukraine to gain militarily, and through humanitarian aid.
Yet Meloni told the pranksters the Ukrainian counteroffensive did not yield much. The Pranksters clearly speaking in an eastern European accent went on to ‘interview’ Meloni on other issues including the Nigerien coup, lifting of sanctions on Russia, immigration policies of EU as well as her thoughts on Rwanda’s refugee deal with the UK to resettle illegal immigrants.
To the latter, she said she had fears about the difficulty of integrating migrants who arrive illegal on the borders.
When calls were first made, the AU issued a statement days later, condemning the impersonation even though it didn’t name the European leaders who had fallen victim to the fraudulent calls. One other victim, however, was Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas who admitted a call had been arranged only to turn out fake, according to the country’s Foreign Ministry.
In a statement, the AU Commission had said last month that it “regrets these incidents,” reiterating the commission only uses official diplomatic channels to communicate with foreign governments, through their embassies in Addis Ababa.
“The AU Commission reiterates its strict adherence to diplomatic protocol and exclusive usage of Note Verbale for high-level engagement requests.” Kalondo said in a tweet.